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February 14, 2014

Obama, Biden Rally Congressional Democrats on Middle Class Agenda

by Dan Robinson

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden rallied House Democrats on Friday, saying they need to be aggressive in pressing the Democratic Party agenda in the months leading to the U.S. mid-term congressional elections.
 
The president and Biden made their remarks in Cambridge, Maryland at the issues conference of Democrats in the House of Representatives.

It's an annual event at which lawmakers discuss legislative priorities and strategy, and often hear from the titular leader of their party, the president.

This year's gathering came as Democrats gear up for an intense period of campaigning for the November mid-term congressional elections.   

Obama largely repeated major points from his State of the Union Address, including his pledge to use executive orders to achieve key objectives when he encounters resistance from Republicans in Congress.

He praised the "courage, unity and discipline" of House Democrats. And he described the recent decision by House Republicans to drop an effort to link political conditions to increasing the federal government's debt limit as a victory.

"We are no longer going to see, I believe, anybody try to hold our government hostage and threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America in order to contract policy concessions," said Obama. "The fact that we were able to pass a clean debt limit is just one example of why when you guys are unified, you guys stick together, this country is better off and I could not be more thankful and more appreciate and prouder of what you're doing."

House Republicans recently rejected a proposal by their leadership to link the borrowing authority limit to a budget issue, and were helped by minority Democrats in a 221-201 House vote. Obama hopes it will mark a change in Republicans' approach during the remainder of his second term.

The president also highlighted progress in the number of people signing up for insurance under his signature health care reform law, known as Obamacare. His job approval ratings suffered last year from what he acknowledged was the "fumbled" handling of the federal health care website.

But Republicans running for re-election plan to escalate use of the Obamacare issue as they campaign against Democrats.  The president said the health care reform eventually will be seen in a positive light.

"I just want to say thank you, for all of you, hanging in their tough, on an issue that I think 10 years from now, five years from now, we're going to look back and say this was a monumental achievement that could not have happened had it not been for this caucus," said Obama.

Biden delivered tough remarks to the gathering, in support of Democratic policies to help the middle class, and critical of positions taken by Republicans.

Americans, Biden said, agree with core Democratic Party positions on a range of issues, including the debt ceiling, immigration reform, stronger background checks for gun purchases and infrastructure.

He said Democrats need to advocate strongly for their agenda in the months leading to to the November mid-term elections.

"Keep your eye on the ball. The American people are where we are. And let's go out and make every single effort not just to defend, but to aggressively push, aggressively push, our agenda," said Biden.

Obama flew later Friday to California, where he focused on federal government responses to drought afflicting virtually the entire state.

He wants Congress to approve a $1-billion Climate Resilience Fund, part of the budget he will send to Capitol Hill next month. This would be separate from the climate action agenda he announced last year.

The proposal would fund research on impacts of climate change, help communities and fund “breakthrough technologies and resilient infrastructure."

It's not certain the president can win approval for the fund, as Republicans have broadly opposed his climate agenda.